The second wave of COVID 19, politics and violence dominated South Asia in the Month of May. The uncertainty of COVID 19 continues as some countries seem to have flattened the curve such as India, Nepal and Pakistan while others as Afghanistan are in the midst of the same in the first week of June.
As for politics and violence – the trauma continues in June and may last for some time as considerable challenges -power seeking, ethnic, economic and so on persist while in the latter case Afghanistan is deeply impacted.
Let us examine these issues in sequence.
Firstly COVID 19, surge of corona virus cases which commenced in April continued through the month of May with India reaching a new high of over 28 million and a daily of 400,000 plus for a couple of days in the beginning of the month which is the highest globally so far.
Other countries also experienced a surge of COVID 19 with Pakistan and Bangladesh facing a crisis during Ramazan and Eid.
Nepal, Sri Lanka and even Maldives saw rising numbers leading to imposition of lockdown.
Bhutan which has been so far managing the spread well was also impacted but only relatively. Afghanistan experienced an uptick with positivity reflected at over 30 % straining the limited testing infrastructure as well as the hospitals which lack capacity to manage a spike.
Not much is known of the impact of COVID 19 in Myanmar as the post military take over has rendered administration ineffective and the numbers coming are unreliably low even as large congregations mainly protests against the military are being held across the country.
While vaccination the best antidote was planned with India taking the lead in providing vaccines to neighbours less Pakistan, India’s surge has led New Delhi to retract exports.
China meanwhile has come forward to offer large number of vaccines to countries in the region leading with Pakistan. This has led to regional geopolitics emerging at a different level and how this pans out remains to be seen?
Secondly political challenges bordering on instability in some cases are continuing despite need for governments to prioritise managing COVID 19.
Myanmar is increasingly going into the feral mode with breakdown of governance and law and order post the military take over on February 01.
A parallel National Unity Government has declared formation of a defence force while the State Administrative Commission (SAC) led by military nominated members is barely able to manage the day to day affairs due to civil disobedience by government employees in some sectors including education and hospitals. The coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing acknowledged that the military did not anticipate the level of resistance that has come from multiple quarters particularly the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Nepal has seen a second dissolution of the House of Representatives by the same set of leadership in power – caretaker Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and President Bidya Devi Bhandari acting in tandem. The Supreme Court is likely to call the shots now.
In India centre state relations in West Bengal have virtually collapsed but this has not affected management of COVID 19 so far.
Afghanistan’s political spectrum remains divided on the larger fault line between the Republic government in Kabul and the Taliban with intra Afghan talks continuing to be in a limbo. Meanwhile attempts to bring together the leaders in Kabul to form a Supreme State Council are ongoing.
In Pakistan the opposition, Pakistan Democratic Movement and the ruling parties seem to continue with convulsions of sorts with a pressure group known as the JKT [Jahangir Khan Tareen] faction rocking Prime Minister Imran Khan but these developments are within the bounds of normalcy in the fractious democracy of Islamabad.
Finally violence, Afghanistan had a brief respite for three days during the Eid from May 13 to 15, when Taliban pre-empted a cease fire but refused to take it forward and has continued with a string of attacks to gain control of the countryside maneouvring towards Kabul as the United States and NATO forces have commenced their pull out on May 01 as scheduled.
Other groups as the Islamic State of Khorasan and the al Qaeda are also active while the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces are combating in a vast area with limited resources relying on Special Forces to restore order.
Pakistan saw a surge of terrorist attacks in May which may only grow in case the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates.
India saw violence in Jammu and Kashmir and Left Wing Extremist areas in the Central region.
Myanmar’s collapsing security is a matter of major concern with many mutinies adding to the existing challenges from multiple ethnic groups.
Thus, all in all the triple trauma of COVID 19, political friction and violence is expected to continue in the month ahead with varying degree of intensity.